Tag Archives: national endowment for the humanities

On Grant Writing

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National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminars and Institutes for Teachers

Last year, I applied for and was accepted to participate in an NEH Summer Institute for Teachers.  This grant was to visit Oaxaca for four weeks to participate in an Institute on Mesoamerican Culture and the National Endowment for the Humanities paid $3300 towards the trip. That money covered the apartment rental, air fare, meals and various other expenses.  I had some money left over to buy some art and books – and I may have had some left over to pay for expenses for some of my family to visit…

I have spent some time trying to get the word out about the NEH seminars and institutes that are available this year.  I have encouraged my colleagues to apply.  There are two seminars that are going to be in France – one in Avignon and another in Paris, Lyon, and Normandy.  There appear to be many offerings for Spanish Speakers, with destinations such as Spain, Mexico, and New York City. Many of the seminars and institutes are in the United States, but there are others (besides the ones I mentioned) that will take you to Italy, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Austria.

These seminars are open to teachers from K thru 12th grade.  All subjects are welcome – don’t assume that a trip to Mexico, for instance, is just for Spanish teachers.  In our Institute, which took place in Oaxaca, there were art teachers, Spanish teachers, social studies teachers, and even a media specialist and a science teacher.  Read the Dear Colleague letter and think to yourself about what you can bring to the table.  There is a new part of the program where graduate students may also apply (up to 3 positions can be filled with graduate student applicants).

In order to apply for a grant, you need to register online with the NEH.  An applicant can apply for up to two different seminars or programs, but can only attend one of the choices (if the applicant is offered a spot on both!).  Then, the application process is spelled out on the web pages of each of the participating universities.  Basically, it involves writing a 4 page essay on why you want/need/have to participate in that particular seminar.  I encourage you to have some concrete ideas or lesson plans or units that you envision completing during the seminar.  You will need to procure 2 to 3 sealed letters of reference from colleagues or administrators, and write up a curriculum vitae as well.

If you are planning on taking family or your spouse with you, I suggest that you contact the director of that program.  When I went to Oaxaca, my husband was able to accompany me there.  He could not participate in any of the classes or field trips, but he did go to the opening and closing receptions.  He also did all of the shopping and errands – it was good for his Spanish, I think.

The application deadline for an NEH Summer Seminar is March 1, 2011.  The application envelope has to be postmarked before March 1st.  I recommend that you use a delivery confirmation or something that will let you know it got to its destination.  I had a really great Director who was patient when I kept e-mailing to ask if my application had arrived (even though I had used delivery confirmation, there was a snafu in even THAT process!)  The participants are notified, I think, in April, and have a limited amount of time to accept or refuse the grant so that alternates can take their places.

Fund for Teachers Travel Grants

Four years ago, I was awarded $5000 from the Fund for Teachers to study Spanish in Morelia, Michoacan (Mexico) and to collect art and arts integration ideas from the region.  The grant was for five weeks and included air fare, apartment rental, one-on-one language classes and trips to Patzcuaro, Guadalajara, Guanajuato, and Puebla.  I also had money left over from my budget to buy art pieces to exhibit at my school.

Unfortunately for most teachers who live in Georgia, there are not many school systems that are eligible for Fund for Teachers Grants.  The organization is out of Houston, Texas and the year that I applied was the one and only year that Marietta City Schools employees were eligible to apply.  I believe that there must be some sort of auxiliary present in the system – a group of wealthy people, I mean – to raise part of the funds for their teachers.  That’s just a guess.  I think I’m right:  here is a page for Partners who provide funding.  But some Partners cover a lot of states.  You need to go to the Apply page and see if your school system is eligible.

When it comes to the application process, the Fund for Teachers Program is really the most user-friendly of the two.  The entire application is done online.  That means, of course, that you need to read over the instructions carefully and come up with your itinerary, project, and projected budget before you go online “live”.  There are all sorts of helpful resources – examples of successful essays, budget tips – really everything you need to get the process done right.  The added bonus is that you don’t have to worry about postmarking and mailing the application – and then worrying about when it gets there. I think that I remember that correctly, but it may have been necessary to apply online AND send in a written application.  Check the website.

Now, when you are awarded your trip, you are expected to keep up with all of your receipts and expenses, and make a detailed financial report when you return.  You are given a couple of months to gather your report materials, and to write an essay or make a scrapbook or do SOMETHING to record your experience.

One more note on the Fund for Teachers application process.  A couple of years ago, I was invited to participate in choosing the candidates for the Atlanta Program.  I believe that I received 3 to 4 applications ahead of time to read and evaluate. It was a lot of fun – we gathered at a nice restaurant and sat at round tables (about 7 to 8 to a table, I think).  After a presentation of the program and past participants, the people at my table got up and presented the application (or applications) that we thought merited a grant.  When we were done, we had ranked the applications in order of importance.  Then, the emcee went around to each table and chose grant recipients until there was no more grant money left!

It was amazing how passionate and defensive some of us got about our “pet” applicants.  We were truly disappointed when our pets did not make it.  On the other hand, it seemed easy to see those applicants who mixed up the name of the organization.  It’s not FUN for Teachers – although it can be.  I’m just saying that your application really does have to have some evidence that you will be sharing your experience with your students and colleagues.  Keep that in mind before you ask for that trip to Vegas to study “math”.

The application deadline for a Fund for Teachers Grant is January 28, 2011 @ 5:00 PM.  After that, the computer application center closes.  I know that’s short notice for this year, but, if your school system is eligible, consider it for next year.

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Monte Alban and Mezcal, tour day part one

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Yesterday (Tuesday) was a field trip day.  The NEH fellows met at the corner of Constitucion and Reforma and boarded a large University bus with a very stoic bus driver with sideburns.  We made our way around the top of the valley to the archaeological zone of Monte Alban.  I had been there once before with my husband and father (in 2003), but this was a little different.

For one thing, we were accompanied by the foremost expert on Mixtec culture and history, Dr. Ronald Spores.  He would periodically stand up on the bus and point out places in the distance, usually covered by urban sprawl, that were Zapotec or Mixtec sites.  He maintains that the indigenous peoples of Oaxaca state never “died”, but are alive and well up until the present.

We got down at the entrance to Monte Alban, where we were met by family members who came on a separate bus.  My husband and nephew were there – my husband taking pictures, of course.  My nephew, who is into geocaching, was volunteered by me to operate a GPS donated to the Virtual Oaxaca Project.  The idea was to map the exact locations of the major buildings at the site so that it can be recreated in a virtual world, probably on Second Life.

To that end, I walked around with a notebook and pen, and each time Robert (my nephew) plotted the coordinates of a major temple or the ball court, or anything major, I wrote down the name of the place and its coordinates (latitude and longitude).  It ended up being quicker to just do the last digit, the “seconds” because the degrees and the minutes did not change.

Let me tell you that we went to EVERY tomb, edifice, pile of rocks, etc. that there was at Monte Alban.  The only place I did not go was to the top of the South Pyramid.  My nephew, of course, trotted up and down that twice, measuring coordinates at the base of the steps and at the top of the structure.

I stayed at the bottom and tried to sketch a hieroglyph that looked a bit like Donald Duck – I don’t know what was up with the bill… Maybe it was a visor.  While I was sketching that, the husband of a co-participant (David Geer) was sketching me!

Can you tell it's me?

After we left Monte Alban, we were heading for Mitla.  First, we planned on stopping at a restaurant and mezcal distillery for lunch.  Alas, we has an adventurous side-track because the highway was blocked – we think it was some kind of protest.  Our bus driver said he knew a “short cut”. and turned off onto a dirt road.  A one-track dirt road.  With cars going in both directions as they made their way around the blockade.  Did I mention that we were in a tour bus?  He got through just fine, but boy, were we ready for some mezcal tasting when it was done!!!

Rancho Zapata was the name of the restaurant/showroom and it is one of those destination restaurants for families to come to for the weekend.  They bring their kids with them (there’s a playground), have a leisurely lunch on the covered patio, and buy a little mezcal.  The place is operated by Mezcal Benevá, and they also raise race horses there.  There are stables in the back.

The front of the restaurant is decorated with old pictures of Emilio Zapata, and the back room has starting gate and finish line photos of their winning horses.  In the back is also a palenque or press for getting the juice out of the maguey roots.  There are vats with maguey in several states of fermentation, and a big murky tub feeding liquid into the distillers.  From there, the mezcal drips into big plastic tanks to be bottled later, I guess.

Now, the one thing I learned about this whole process is that there are a LOT of flies.  Flies on the growing maguey plants, flies on the pulverized core, flies on the vats of fermenting pulp, and flies over the murky tub.  The one source of comfort is that that stuff is boiled, distilled and stored in a fly-proof tank.  Did you know that some mezcals (not all) have an maguey worm in them?  They should really put a fly in there!

More later!  I have another long day in a bus tomorrow and I’ve got to get to bed.

First Day of Class

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Exterior of Santo Domingo church

Yesterday was my first day of “classes”.  We meet in a beautiful convent (ex-convent?) called the Santo Domingo Cultural Center.  The best thing is that it’s only a couple of blocks from where we are staying.  We have to have ID badges to get in, and our class is being held in the back of the gigantic convent kitchen.  I will have to take pictures of the frescos – at least in our classroom.

First, we have “Homeroom” where we discuss things we’ve seen – this session was more of a “getting to know you” group.  After a break on the terrace overlooking the gardens, we were given an introduction to the different groups of indigenous people who live in the Oaxacan state by Dra. Maria de los Angeles Romero Frizzi, an ethnohistorian and senior researcher with the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH).

We walk past the cloisters to get to our classroom.

In the afternoon, we met at the Fundacion Bustamante for a  lecture given by Dr. Michael Swanton, Coordinator of Linguistic Projects at the Biblioteca Francisco Burgoa will speak to us on “Languages and Cultures in Oaxaca.”  It was not easy to find the Fundacion, but we finally got there.  As there were no more chairs, I sat on a table in the back.

In addition to this, my nephew, Robert, was scheduled to land at the airport at 7:00 PM for the third leg of his trip to visit us.  He first flew from New Orleans to Dallas/Ft. Worth, then from there to Mexico City, and finally from D. F. (another name for Mexico City) to Oaxaca.  There were several updates from my husband, but the bottom line was that his flight was 2 hours and 45 minutes late getting in.  To add to the confusion, Mexicana Click, the airline, changed the flight number.  So, although I was fairly certain they were the same flight, you never know…

When he got to the apartment, I made some sopes for him and we fixed up the futon in the living room for him to sleep on.  Even though he must have been beat, he wanted to come along on the trip to Monte Alban in the morning.  Since family members are not allowed on the bus, which is for US NEH scholars, there was an alternative plan.  All of the S. O.’s (Significant Others, so that no one get’s left out) were going to go separately and meet us there.

More about the field trip tomorrow.  Time to go to bed!

Getting a cell phone in Mexico…

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Yesterday, my husband and I got off to a slow start, exhausted from our travels.  Our priorities, after seeking breakfast – er, brunch – were:

  • find a Telcel cellphone retailer and buy SIM card chips to make our phones work less expensively in Mexico.
  • Go to a Soriana supermarket – which is the closest there is to a WalMart here in Oaxaca.  (Curiously, Sam’s Club – Yes; WalMart – No).
  • Get everything put away in our little kitchen and apartment.

After a lovely breakfast of chilaquiles and Diet Coke, we set off on foot to find the Telcel store recommended by Dr. Wood (my program chief).  It was located on 607 Porfirio Diaz, a street which is only one block over from our street, Garcia Vigil.  Or so we thought…

First, we did locate the local mercado (a street market, or hive of small business owners selling everything from blue jeans to saddles to meat to produce).  We took note of the location and plan to go there for stocking up on fresh foods.  Since it was on Porfirio Diaz, we kept going north.  The address numbers read 200, then 300, so we were pretty sure that 607 would come up soon.

After a while we were walking along a beautiful old aqueduct, and then we came upon a stretch of street where everything was broken up.  While we were trying to decide how to get around it, we noticed that the street numbers had far surpassed the 600s.  So, we tracked back, counting carefully as we retraced our steps.  No Telcel store.

We looked at the address again – it said 607 Calz. Porfirio Diaz.  Calz. stands for calzada.  Could there be two different Porfirio Diaz streets?  Well, coming from “Peachtree Street USA” – we figured it was possible.  The first person we asked – a young lady selling newspapers in candy from a booth on the sidewalk – had no idea what we were talking about.

We moved on to a hotel lobby with a gift shop, and that young lady led us to a big map they had posted on a wall in the shop.  Yes, Calzada Porfirio Diaz is different from Porfirio Diaz (calzada means road).  She then indulged me by showing me how to pronounce “Netzahualcoyotl” – the name of a street I espied and hoped I never had to use in giving directions.

As we were walking along Niños Héroes, a major thoroughfare, we espied an Office Depot.  My husband was so excited!  We could check on printer prices.  So, while I was temporarily distracted by the abundance of Distroller notebooks and backpacks, he went to the printer area and scoped things out.  We were able to buy a printer/scanner for about what you’d pay in the U.S. for a bottom of the line item of this sort.  We decided to return here after the Telcel store and buy one, taking a taxi home.

After we found the correct Porfirio Diaz, we started up the street.  Many businesses and residences do not have numbers, so we had to keep track whenever we espied one.  These blocks seemed MUCH longer than the ones on the previous street, and I didn’t know if I would make it to 607.  In the middle of the 200 block, I saw a 300 address – but it was just a cruel joke.  Finally, we took refuge in a paleta (ice cream popsicles) shop called Popeye.  I had a cajeta paleta and Wheat had a pineapple.

We agreed that it was going to take forever to get 4 more blocks under our beld, so we decided to ask at the Telcel store across the street.  There was a security guard there, and he had no idea where 607 was.  He was very friendly, though, and this was a large Telcel store, so we decided to settle on that one.  Recommendations be damned.

(My husband wanted me to include his joke – He requested “Dos tarjetas SIM por Carlos Slim” – the guy did laugh)

The process of replacing our chips was fairly straightforward, since my husband had obtained the unlock codes from AT&T before we left.  For about $15 each, we got a Oaxacan phone number and 50 pesos of talk time (about 20 local minutes).  After it was all said and done, the cashier handed over our paper work.  Guess where we were?  607 Calz. Porfirio Diaz.  Talk about an inscrutable address system!

We hailed a taxi, who took us to the Office Depot and waited while we got the printer and some paper (and a Distroller notebook for me).  Then, we went home.  Throughout the day, my pedometer told me we had walked 6.66 miles.  Whew!

Aqui estamos!

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The airport in the daytime.

This evening, we arrived at the Xocotlan Airport in Oaxaca.  There were quite a few of my colleagues on our flight, and we were met at the airport by Dr. Stephanie Wood and Yasmin Acosta-Myers.  We all climbed aboard a couple of collectivo taxis and made our way into town.  The airport is about a 20 minute drive from our part of town.  I can’t wait to see everything in the daylight.

Last time I was in Oaxaca, it was 2003 and I came with my father and my husband.  We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express, and mostly stuck to the center of town – with one trip to Monte Alban.  I look forward to living here for a month as a resident!  Our apartment is very close to where most of my classes will be, and that is why I chose it. There are, I think, two other NEH fellows staying here, too.

It’s a nice apartment, but there are a few things we found out this evening when we got here:

  • There is no microwave – that’s okay, but it’s strange to see when most hotels these days (I know, in the U.S.) have them.  The stove is gas.
  • The first big bottle of water is free.  After that, we pay by the bottle.
  • Same thing for the toilet paper.
  • If a third person uses the futon in the living room for sleeping, it costs $10 per night outside of the $695 we have already paid.  (I actually found out about that before we came)
  • There are no screens on the window, and you should close them when you are gone to avoid “visits by the cat”.

Here is the floor plan – we have one of the one story apartments in the little complex of 6 apartments.  Isn’t it cute?  And that little closet looking thing between the bedroom and the kitchen?  It’s just a “hole” in the building where they put the water tank, I think.  I had thought it would be a pantry.

Tomorrow, my husband wants to go right out and find a way to get cell phone service here.  A lot of other people have done it, so it is possible and supposed to be not too expensive.  We also are going to the market to stock up on food and supplies like toilet paper and Diet Cokes.

Our opening reception is on Sunday evening, and apparently Dr. Wood (call her Stephanie) and Yasmin are doing a lot of cooking for it!  Can’t wait!  On Monday evening, my nephew from Louisiana is coming to stay with us for a week.  He’s been taking Spanish and has only been to Cozumel, so I really am happy to be able to welcome him here in Oaxaca!

My dog is the one on the right. But they will both miss me!

Oh, our dog is being cared for by my in-laws in Atlanta, who have a great back yard and two children who are excited about having a dog visit.  That is so great of them, and they were awesome to offer.  It really makes a difference, knowing that she’s in such good hands.

The Mesoamerican Ballgame: An Interactive Website

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I just spent over an hour at a great website I found.  It is www.ballgame.org and it was the companion website to an exhibit that toured from September 2001 through December 2002.  The exhibit was called The Sport of Life and Death: The Mesoamerican Ball Game.

The website is engaging and well laid out.  The common theme is the ancient ball game played in Mesoamerica for over 3000 years.  There is information on various cultures:  the Olmec, the people of Western Mexico, the city of Teotihuacan, the Maya, the ancient people of Veracruz, the Toltecs, the Huastecs, and the Aztecs.  There are four major parts to the website, including information on the now defunct exhibit.

The first part is called Explore the Mesoamerican World.  When you enter this section there is an interactive timeline that illustrates the rise and fall of several civilizations.  The map is loaded with information on the culture, artwork, ballgames and archeological sites where the ballgame was played. Information can be accessed by clicking on the map, on the time line dates, or on the menu to the left of the map.  The civilizations mentioned above are included and there is also a segment on the Spanish Conquest.

The second part of the site is called Explore the Ball Game.  This section is divided into information about the Ball, the Uniform, the Ball Court and the Game.

The page about the ball has four components: artwork depicting an offering of a rubber ball by a priest (click on it for illustration), a slide show on how the rubber balls were made (from tree to molding), an interactive game that offers interesting facts about rubber and the balls, and a series of first hand accounts written by Europeans who witnessed the game when they came to the New World.

The Uniform page is illustrated with statues and also has a menu to explain each element. The Parade of Players has a wide assortment of clay figures of ball players and spectators that are clearly labeled with arrows.  The Mascots are various animal carvings worn by the players or used to decorate the ball courts – each figure is labeled with interesting pieces of information about the uniform, the players, and animal symbolism. The Locker Room shows more stone replicas of ball player equipment with explanations.  After learning about the parts of the uniform, one can then dress a player for a game.  Watch out – the “hacha” was tricky to place…

The Court page has five interactive parts.  First, there is video panorama of the Mayan ball court at Copan (Honduras).  Click on “Listen to an Aztec Song” and there is a three-part musical rendition of the Matlatzincayotl, which was an ancient song honoring Xochipilli – the patron god of the ball game.  There is an interactive diagram of a ball court with explanations that appear when you move your cursor over parts of the illustration. Finally, there is a gallery of artwork from ball courts, with explanations and symbols clearly pointed out and explained.  In another link to historical art,  there is a cylindrical vase that tells a story.

The Game page has a video clip re-enacting a ball game from the National Geographic Special called “Lost Kingdoms of the Maya”. There are links to click on that ask “Did Women Play?”, “What Happened to the Losers?”, “The First Dream Team” compares ancient sports with those played today, and there is a depiction of the Mayan glyph for ball player.  My favorite link is “Explore this Artwork” which explains how the creation story of Popol Vuh – the Hero Twins is contained within the design on a plate. Be sure to click on the diagram and line drawing to get the full effect.

Experience the Game is a section in two parts: Watch the Game (or Be a Fan) is a narrative interpreting an elaborate clay model of a ball court with players and spectators. You can also click on the links for close ups of the model.  It is interesting, once you get used to the idea that no actual game will be played in the segment.  The final activity: Play the Game (Be a Player) is a great trivia game.  Players who answer correctly win a point for their team.  It can be played more than once – maybe three times before the questions begin repeating themselves.  These questions might also be transcribed for a quiz.

If you click on the Classroom Connections link at the bottom, there are four art projects with instructions: Make a paper face mask, Create a clay effigy vessel, Craft a headdress and costumes from paper, and Mold clay ballgame figures.  In fact, if you click on the different instruction links, there are charts and diagrams that can be printed out – information that I didn’t see anywhere else in the site.  These included a Cosmic Diagram, Story of Popol Vuh, Animal Imagery, a Pronunciation Guide, a Glossary of Terms related to the Mesoamerican Ballgame, and other printables.

This is a very rich website that should be suitable for upper elementary to adult learners (I liked it and learned a lot!).

Oaxaca Projects, Part One

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I made this map to include in my students’ Mayan codices. It looks great laser printed on brown craft paper.  You have to cut the paper to size, however.

At the moment, I have to say that I am maxing out my loafing potential as Summer Vacation begins.  I have all sorts of ideas and projects, but at the moment, I can’t seem to be bothered much.  So… in an attempt to focus, I am looking back at my application for the National Endowment of the Humanities Summer Institute that is four short weeks away.

In order to be considered for the Institute, I had to write an essay of no more than 4 pages, double spaced.  I tried hard not to play with the margins too much, but I had so much I wanted to say.  The excerpt below is the part where I explain what I would like to do while I am down in Oaxaca.  Yes, there will be tours, and lectures, and all sorts of interesting things to see, but the main idea of getting a bunch of teachers together is to create lesson plans that will use the resources we will learn about – as well as any others we can bring to the table.

Here goes – of course, I’ve added notes as I am thinking of them now:

If I am fortunate enough to be chosen to participate in this Summer Institute, I have some specific ideas of what I would like to pursue.  First of all, I am interested in expanding upon my lesson plans on the Mayan Civilization, which is one of the standards that I must teach in sixth grade Social Studies.  I would like to take the idea of creating a Mayan codex (which I did as an accordion book out of cardboard and brown paper this past year) and add more elements to that book.

Glyph with Mayan Long Count Birthdate

This will be a challenge – but I think that my students already have some experience with “creative” spelling.  It may not be as difficult as I envision.

If possible, I would like to have clarification on how to calculate the dates in the Long Count calendar so that this could be aligned with the Mathematics curriculum.  I would also like to collect more specific information about the Mayan observatory – perhaps this information could be added to the Astronomy unit in the Earth Science curriculum.

To be honest, I found some excellent lesson plans, but the Mayan calendar in long count confuses me…  It is true, however, that we do study the planets in Earth Science – I just am not aware of any specific astronomical information in my Mayan resources.

In regards to teaching ESOL and reading, I have also located two young adult novels that portray young people living in Ancient Maya.  One of these books is called The Well of Sacrifice (by Chris Eboch) and the other is Heart of a Jaguar (by Marc Talbert).  The Well of Sacrifice has a female protagonist and Heart of a Jaguar has a young male protagonist.  I would like to organize a parallel book study where the students can identify with life in a Mayan village.  Both books portray vivid scenes of ritual sacrifice and I look forward to sharing ideas about teaching this sensitive subject.  I have supplemented my reading materials with books of Mayan folktales and legends and want to use those as resources, too.

I hate to sound jaded, but for most middle school students, the portrayal of blood and gore only seems to ENHANCE the reading experience.  Truth be told, I am having a hard time getting into these books, so I don’t know how that bodes for younger readers…  I forgot to mention that I DO use Me Oh Maya!, which is a Time Warp Trio series of books.  It’s pretty funny and is a good attention grabber.  In coordination with the new British series I found, it could be good.

In addition to these texts, I have found four texts that illustrate the modern world of the Maya and Mixtec people.  What the Moon Saw and Red Glass by Laura Resau involve heroines that voyage to Oaxaca and encounter curanderas, divination using corn kernels, and the Mixteca language.   Becoming Naomi Leon by Pam Muñoz Ryan also involves a journey to Oaxaca, and highlights the woodcarving culture of the region.  Although Colibrí by Ann Cameron is set in Guatemala, many of the traditions and references are similar to those in my books about Oaxaca.  I would like to make the teaching of these texts in more depth possible by collecting information and real life examples and making them available to our school library – to generate interest and understanding in the subject matters and culture described so vividly in these books.

So, there.  I don’t know if I am going to do all of those things, or choose aspects of each.  I do want to do some advance preparations so that I have some idea of the lesson plans before I get to Mexico.  After I made the proposal, I came up with the idea of looking at my collection of folk tales – which is pretty extensive, and using those for a Language Arts lesson plan on elements of a folk tale.

On top of that, I have many interesting picture books about the area that can be appropriate for introducing the culture.  I have a book called Josefina by Jeannette Winter that is written about the artist Josefina Aguilar.  We don’t have a trip planned to Ocotlán, but I could go down there.  She and her family have a pottery studio there.  Dream Carver by Diana Cohn is said to be inspired by the real life of Oaxacan woodcarver Manuel Jimenez.  There is also a series of books by Cynthia Weill which include Oaxacan woodcarvings to illustrate the alphabet and opposites.

So, my problem is not with coming up with ideas – it is with narrowing down the possibilities for the four week Institute!